Breast Cancer and the Low-Income Families

In Breast Cancer, Recent Posts by Barbara Jacoby

From my perspective, women often put themselves in positions of self-sacrifice in order to accommodate the needs of everyone else around them. It becomes easy to do so because of the satisfaction in knowing that as a result of what you have done has improved the situation of others is rewarding in and of itself. Take for example the mother who makes sure that her family is fed even when there is not enough food for her to eat. Or the wife who is being abused who does nothing to protect herself because the lack of conflict will usually diffuse an abuser. So what happens when a woman sacrifices to the extent that it affects her health?

“There seems to be a belief that many of the women who do not get breast cancer screenings and other medical care do so because they don’t know any better.”Barbara Jacoby

There seems to be a belief that many of the women who do not get breast cancer screenings and other medical care do so because they don’t know any better. They believe that these women don’t understand that breast cancer can spread from the breast and ultimately kill you. And for those who think that this is the reason why some women never get screened or do anything if they happen to find a lump in their breast, let me offer another point of view.

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If you have never had to fight for what you and your family need, it might be hard to understand the thinking of someone who has had this experience. I have known of women who are fully aware of the need for breast cancer screening and even where they may have this testing done if they can’t pay for it. However, to them it doesn’t matter whether they have breast cancer or not because they are the sole providers for their families. Even if testing and treatment could be given to them at no cost, they are not in a position to avail themselves of such care because of the dynamics in their own families.

Most of them are working at least one job if not more. In order to take care of their children they can’t conceive of a way to keep the family going while they are undergoing treatment for breast cancer if they are diagnosed. Therefore, it becomes a moot point to get screenings because they are not going to do anything about getting treatment. In their minds, they can’t start a process for which there is no successful outcome. If cancer were to be discovered, there is no way that they can take the time away from work for treatment when it means that there is no money for them to feed their families and keep a roof over their heads. As a result they believe that they have one choice and that is to keep on working and doing for others as long as they can until they can’t anymore. At least, they believe, they have done their very best.

I can understand someone making this choice. You do the very best that you can to take care of others in order to have respect for yourself. This will be your legacy and you will continue down this path until you reach the end. Your value is based on what you can contribute to others. But, if you look a little deeper, you just might find that this person has nothing else for which to live. She has no goals or hopes for herself for the future and just wants to hold in there long enough so that the children are old enough to go out on their own and take care of themselves. They have no further motivation to keep on going for themselves after that. Therefore, if it is advanced breast cancer that will bring an end to a future that provides nothing of promise, so be it.

Perhaps the next time that you are facing the question of why women are not getting screened for breast cancer, you might consider one more reason. We don’t always have all of the answers on any issue so I think that we might want to consider asking more questions before making final evaluations. If we can get to the real issues in such circumstances, we might be able to save a life and I think that this would be well worth the efforts that we make.